ATLANTA — Josh Smith believes the Atlanta Hawks can keep winning even
though centre Al Horford will miss the next three to four months with an
injury.

``We have veteran guys who have been there and done that before,’’ Smith
said. ``All we need is to just keep flying under the radar.’’

Smith scored 28 points and pulled down a season-high 15 rebounds and Joe
Johnson added 27 points to help the Atlanta Hawks win their third
straight game, 93-84 over the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

The Hawks are 3-0 since Horford tore his left pectoral muscle last week,
and Smith is hardly concerned that Atlanta has yet to beat a strong
opponent during that stretch. Charlotte, Minnesota and Toronto are a
combined 11-29.

 

``We’ve played against some good teams here and some not-so-good teams,
so we’ve just got to be able to be disciplined no matter who we’re
playing against,’’ Smith said. ``We have to be able to get out to a good
start. The bench guys came in (Saturday) night and gave us a lift and
the starters did the same thing today and everyone else followed.’’

Leandro Barbosa had 22 points off the bench for Toronto, which has lost five straight.

Toronto was without centre Andrea Bargnani, the NBA’s ninth-leading
scorer, for the third straight game because of a strained left calf.
Reserve guard James Johnson didn’t play because of a sprained right
ankle.

The Raptors twice cut the lead to one late in the third quarter when
Barbosa hit a pair of free throws and a runner, but Atlanta went on an
18-9 run that Jeff Teague ended with a free throw to make it 81-71 with
7:55 remaining.

Toronto never got closer than five after Ed Davis scored inside over Smith to make it 85-80 with 2:12 left.

Smith responded on the next possession by jumping from the right
baseline and tipping in Johnson’s missed runner to give the Hawks an
87-80 lead.

``It sounds like a broken record, but I thought our guys competed,’’
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ``We’re truly missing our players, but
that’s no excuse. There’s only so much you can ask for from certain
players. That’s not their role.’’

Jose Calderon had 13 points and 11 assists and Amir Johnson added 13
points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost seven of eight
overall and dropped to 2-6 on the road.

The Hawks converted 17 Toronto turnovers into 22 points.

``I don’t want to make excuses, but we’re a young team and we have a new
coach,’’ Calderon said. ``Maybe we need some practice. Hopefully we can
get on the same page. Sometimes we turn the ball over because we’re
trying to do too much.’’

Calderon likes that Casey wants the Raptors to run the floor with an
up-tempo offence — an approach that could give Toronto a better chance
to succeed when Bargnani and others return from injury.

``We just have to get used to this,’’ Calderon said. ``We have to keep
fighting. Everybody believes in what we’re doing, we just have to do it
for 48 minutes. We’re competing. We’re not losing by 20 or 30 points.’’

Teague, who gave Atlanta its biggest lead when his floating jumper made
it 43-30 at the 3:55 mark of the second, is pleased that the Hawks are
doing what comes natural and leaning on their two best scorers (Johnson
and Smith) with Horford sidelined.

``It’s going to take team efforts every night,’’ Teague said. ``We’ve
played well the last few games, but coming in here (Wednesday), Portland
is a really good team. They’ll play hard. We’ll just have to stay
together.’’

Atlanta improved to 10-4 overall, 6-1 at home.

Notes: The Hawks never trailed after Smith’s layup made it 13-11 at the
6:35 mark of the first. ... Davis had 11 rebounds. ... Johnson and
Teague each had six assists. ... Hawks G Tracy McGrady finished with no
points and three assists in 8 minutes after missing the past three games
with back spasms. ... Atlanta has won five straight over the Raptors
and seven in a row at home.

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